If you’ve purchased a home or rented an apartment recently, then you know that you have to get the property inspected before you make any final purchasing decisions.
Most Australians don’t know the details of exactly what the inspector is looking for.
If you have a checklist of some of the more basic and obvious items to inspect, then you can get a basic understanding before going ahead to the purchasing process.
Note that this checklist will never replace a professional, certified inspection. This is just a way to check out some basic issues and see if the property passes or fails.
If it fails, then you know it won’t pass a proper inspection, and that might be enough to convince you to pass on the property. Read on to see a basic inspection checklist you can perform yourself.
- There are two main points to check with doors:
- First, can the panel of the door open and close freely? Any obstruction by the door frame is incorrect.
- Similarly, is the panel in a regular rectangle that fits the frame?
These points ensure the door will work properly in an emergency as well as daily life.
- You should try to slide every window open and closed and make sure the motion is smooth and easy.
- Any damage to the glass, like a crack or hole, is a bad sign.
- Any sign of moisture in or around the window is also bad, because it could lead to water damage down the road.
Windows are important because they can let in moisture, insects, and other problems.
Walls and Ceilings
- There must be no signs of buckling or weakness at the point where the wall meets the ceiling.
- Check for mould or any indication of recent patches of repair work on the wall.
- Do the same for the base of the wall, especially for brick.
- Make sure the ceiling is level and meets the wall at all points without needing extra paint or filler to do so.
Walls and ceilings should be plumb and square, and water damage should be met with serious repair work, not just painting over the area.
- Look around the sink, especially behind it near the wall, to see if there are damp patches or stains that indicate water damage.
- Check the pipes under the sink for any leakage.
- Try shaking the pipes to make sure they are secure and do not rattle around.
The kitchen is a likely place to find water damage from old leaks, especially if the appliances are old.
- Check all the taps and make sure they work properly and with no leaks.
- Note how long it takes for hot water to come out at an appropriate temperature.
- Like the kitchen, look for leaks under the sink.
- Look at the edges of the shower and/or bath, as well as the tiles, to see if any grout has been pulled out.
- Note whether there is a fan or vent for ventilation of damp air.
- Check the shower screens for mildew, mould, damage, and a smooth opening motion.
A bathroom without ventilation can experience water damage over and over again because the moisture has nowhere to go.
- Make sure the trough is secure and lacks rust.
- Note whether there is tile protecting the wall behind the trough and if there is any sign of water damage.
Laundry rooms are usually easy to check.
- Flush toilets should have tightly sealed pipes and no signs of water damage.
- A toilet in working order will not keep running water for a long time after it is flushed, and if it does, repairs are needed.
Toilets are also fairly easy: you can often install them yourself.
- Go to the water meter and look at the main line to see what material it’s made of.
- Look for any cracks or holes in any of the pipes or in the seals around the pipe joinings.
If you have any doubts about the plumbing have a professional plumber take a look at it. It’s not worth the risk of further damage if you ignore a serious problem.
- Find the fuse box and make sure it has a modern circuit breaker.
- Locate the Safety Switch, which should be nearby.
- Try to get into the crawlspace under the house or under the roof. You should see white cables: these are the modern standard for home wiring.
- If you see black cables, then the house might need an electrical upgrade job to bring it up to code.
Electrical work is also very important because old or shoddy wiring can cause a house fire.
- Try to find out what kind of wood went into the roof frame and examine it.
- If the frame contains hardwood, you will hear creaks, especially during changes in temperature and humidity.
- The ceiling plaster may crack due to expansion and contraction of the wood.
- Pine timber is very stable and less likely to shift and creak.
- Examine the roof from a distance and a variety of angles to ensure that it has a clean line and does not have a wave-like pattern.
The roof needs to be stable and can’t shift around too much, or it will make it difficult to keep the ceilings in order.
Roof Cover and Roof Drainage
- If the roof is iron, look for rust. Often owners paint over rust, so look for suspicious paint patches.
- Concrete that has faded might need to be resealed.
- Cracked mortar will need to be repaired.
- Any sign of rust or water along the edges of the roof, just below the roof, and under the roof shows that water is leaking through when it should instead drain through the pipes. That will need attention to fix.
- The drainage pipes themselves need to lead to a proper waste pipe. If they empty onto the ground or in the ground next to the house, you will experience water damage in the foundation.
These pipes are critical. If they are depositing water near the house, then you risk some real damage because all the water that should be sent away into the sewage system during storms will instead be trapped next to your basement or under your foundation. That is a recipe for structural damage.
- Timber weather boards can tell you if the house has settled or shifted: look to see if the lines are bent or curved.
- Carefully examine all windows, plumbing areas, and the ground level for any signs of water damage or mould.
- Look for cracks in the brick, if there is brick. This should appear near windows and doors first.
- Again, if you have brick, try scratching the mortar with a hard tool. If it comes right off, it probably needs to be redone with a fresh set of mortar.
It is usually not hard to tell when some element of the walls needs to be redone, so do these tests now so that you know what to expect if you go on with the purchase process.
Below the Floor
- Examine stumps for any signs of weakness and probe them with a screwdriver.
- Look for any signs of running water or wet soil below the house. This could indicate that water is draining in an unfavorable path.
- If there is a concrete slab below the house, ensure that any and all garden boxes are below the level of the floor.
- The ground should slope down and away from the house so that water drains away, not towards the building.
Again, structural damage can result from outdated, sloppy, or just plain old stumps or drainage, so take a little time now to learn about what’s under your house before proceeding.
If you follow this checklist then you will learn a lot more about your prospective home. You should not expect to go without an inspection, but this list will give you an idea of where you need to look and what you need to do to get a house in order.
A violation of any item in this checklist is not necessarily a dealbreaker, and you should be prepared to use your own judgement for whether a particular item is enough to prevent you from proceeding with the purchase.
Some of these elements, especially the plumbing and electrical services, should have the attention of a professional specialist if you are unsure about their quality.